Authorities warn of coronavirus tracing text message scams

Lizzy Buczak
May 21, 2020 - 2:01 pm
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Authorities and experts are warning against a string of scams hoping to prey on the fears of the novel coronavirus.

The new scam is pretty straightforward, and at first glance, might not even seem suspicious.

Scammers contact you via text message and pretend to be coronavirus contact tracers aiming to inform you that you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. They attach a link claiming to offer more information.

"Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-100 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested," the message says.

According to a warning from the Federal Trade Commission, once you click the link, malicious software is downloaded onto your phone, which gives the hackers direct access to your personal information.

"Unlike a legitimate text message from a health department, which only wants to let you know they’ll be calling, this message includes a link to click," Colleen Tressler, a consumer education specialist with the FTC, said in her warning to Today.

It’s easy to fall for the scam because contact tracers, who are hired by a local health department, do, in fact, text patients.

However, it’s important to know that contact tracers will only reach out after the health department. They never send a link nor do they ask for personal information including social security and bank information.

Contact tracers work with those infected to alert those who they may have come in contact with. The publication notes "those names and phone numbers are often kept in an online system.” They instruct them to quarantine and monitor their symptoms daily.

Your best course of action when you receive a suspicious message from an unknown number is to ignore it, mark it as spam, or block the number.

There have been a slew of other scams pertaining to the virus.

Authorities warned of scams on Craigslist ads and online resources offering fake coronavirus remedies to cure or prevent the novel virus.

Experts previously warned of multiple scams connected to stimulus checks.

Americans were warned to watch out for scammers who have called, emailed and texted taxpayers, asking if they would like to increase the amount of their stimulus checks or speed up the process of receiving them.

Similarly, they warned never to click on links or give out your social security number.

Authorities also explained that you do not need to call any number prior to cashing in a stimulus check. Some scammers may try to get you to sign over a check or falsely verify personal identification numbers — none of which are necessary for these federal funds.

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